Tag Archives: hand knitting

What does ‘knitterly’ mean?

At the moment I’m collecting, developing and sampling techniques for intervening in existing knitted fabrics – opening, unravelling, re-knitting and embellishing in every configuration I can muster. In my last post I showed one example of the step-by-step images I’m taking of each sample, which will show others how to do the same process. I’m aiming for these processes to be generic – able to be applied in many different ways, in different contexts.

But as I’m doing the samples, I’m realising how many decisions are involved in their making. I want to show a multitude of possibilities, but – by their very nature – each sample can only show one. For example, I have a sample of a piece which I’ve opened and knit down from the open stitches. What hem to knit? What cast off to use?

In a conversation with my PhD supervisor last week, I described these decisions to him, and explained that I was using the idea of ‘being knitterly’ as my guide. Where I have a choice of techniques, I choose the one which seems the most knitterly. But what does this mean? I suppose, for me, it’s about appealing to the sensibilities and preferences of an experienced knitter, and enjoying the full vocabulary of knitting – based on my own experience and the knowledge gained from discussing techniques with others.

I guess that I started using the term ‘knitterly’ with reference to the idea of ‘painterly’. My dictionary defines painterly as:

painterly adj

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a painter

2. characterised by qualities of colour, stroke, or texture perceived as distinctive to the art of painting, especially the rendering of forms and images in terms of colour or tonal relations rather than of contour or line

So…

knitterly adj

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a knitter

2. characterised by elements perceived as distinctive to the craft of knitting, especially…

It’s the second of these definitions that I’m particularly interested in. Could it be developed? What are the elements perceived as being distinctive to the craft of knitting? I searched for others using the term in this way, and found a thread on the Knitter’s Review forums, and a mention in KnitKnit about the knitterly work of Teva Durham.

One person on the forum also made the link between knitterly and painterly:

“I view ‘knitterly’ much as I view ‘painterly.’ Or much as I view the concept of a ‘musician’s musician.’ Paintings that are considered ‘painterly’ often display techniques that may be difficult for a beginning painter to master but which add something beautiful to the work. Tom Waits is a classic musician’s musician–some folks without much of a musical background may not understand all of his work, but those who have studied or played a lot of music can hear musical quotes and techniques that are really exciting.” Lanea

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On the hunt for the characteristics of knitterly-ness, I’ve gathered some ideas together, backed up by some of my own thoughts and the words of others (usernames refer to posters on the Knitter’s Review forum, which can be found here – I hope the original posters are happy for me to use their contributions, but please contact me if not)

Knitterly is about both design and execution

“I create designs to bring out this expressive quality, but in reproducing them, not every knitter has the touch. There are two levels, the design and the implementation or interpretation – like a Chopin nocturne needs a feeling pianist.” Teva Durham quoted by Sabrina Gschwandtner, KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave, p60

Knitterly is about both process and product

“An attention to the craft – to the skill involved in making the item and not just in the item itself” fillyjonk

“[To] focus not only on patterns but also designing, technique, fibre, etc … because for me, knitting is more than just fashion.” MJM

Knitterly is being ‘absolute boss of your knitting’

“The technique will, I think, prove to you that you are the absolute boss of your knitting.” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears, p37

… by understanding the structure you’re creating 

I think of a knitterly approach as being able to read your knitting, to see a piece of knitting or a pattern and to understand the processes involved.

… and using the right technique, based on your own preferences

“It’s about knowing eighteen different ways to do an increase, and choosing the one you want, no matter what the pattern says, based on how you want the end-product to look.” honeybee33

Knitterly is attention to detail

“An attention to, and an appreciation for, detail. An unwillingness to sort of shrug and say, ‘Oh, that’s good enough, no one really knits any more so no one will notice the corners I cut.'” fillyjonk

Knitterly has a preference for in-the-round to flat knitting, for seamless finishes, and for knitting over sewing

“[The] traditional method of construction ‘in the round’ is more natural to knitting than the more modern method of knitting over two needles. Knitting pieces and sewing them together owes more to dressmaking and tailoring, than knitwear. The majority of old patterns were in the round. There is a piece of good advice for knitters that the Shetland Islanders mention over and over again. ‘Never, ever sew when you can knit’. After all, most people hate putting the knitted pieces together.” Michael Pearson, Traditional Knitting, p14

Knitterly is revelling in the cleverness of knitting …

“Perhaps many people share with me great pride in producing a piece of work which will cause their expert friends to exclaim, ‘How did you do it?'” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac, p44 

… but being open about your techniques

“[I] gradually, with hints and winks, give out clues.” Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac, p44 

“The “wise knitting woman” who passes her skills and knowledge on to others.” fillyjonk

Knitterly doesn’t disguise its nature

“Being true to the craft….to me that means it should look like knitting.” kdcrowley

I surprised myself by realising how much I agree with this. I remember having a conversation with a machine knit designer, who tried (quite successfully) to disguise the fact that her fabric was knitted. Her work was accomplished and professional, but I don’t think I’d describe it as knitterly.

Knitterly is being prepared to experiment and ‘unvent’

“It’s about ferreting out how it could be possible to make a yarn-over-knit exactly the same size as a yarn-over-purl, even though you are the only one who would be able to tell.” honeybee33

“[To] look at a sock knit the same way for generations and come up with a different heel.” RobA

Knitterly engages with tradition yet pushes forward

“To me, knitterliness is not about tradition, or ‘the way they used to do things’. It’s not just about looking back, or moving forward. It’s about the drive for the craft that propels all of us ever outward, expanding *and* refining, preserving *and* inventing, no matter where that long drive takes you. Just because we can, and just because we care.” honeybee33

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There were some proposed characteristics of knitterly-ness that I disagreed with:

Knitterly is about enthusiasm rather than skill or detail

“I think of someone as knitterly if they love knitting, and it has nothing to do with attention to detail. A grandmother who knits with Red Heart yarn because she loves the craft so much and can’t afford wool is a perfect example to me. I know people who knit tons of novelty scarves, and others who knit one exquisite sweater per year with every detail carefully planned out and executed. Yes, I think the latter is a better knitter (skillwise), but I think they are both equally knitterly.” knit_cookie

“If the work is done for the joy of knitting (product or process)  it is knitterly. If it is done for the participation in a trend alone, it’s not. So the most intricate knitted garment in the world could be non-knitterly – because it was done for the sake of a trend, and the rattiest scrap of garter stitch with dropped and split stitches, can be knitterly, because it was done for the joy of knitting. RoseByAny

I understand the sentiments of these contributors, but think it’s useful to define knitterly as something other than enthusiasm: otherwise we have no name for knitterly techniques.

Knitterly is about humility and lack of ego

“The old sage woman who’s made mittens and socks (and more) all her life for her loved ones. Without fluff, and without great praise…just the quiet doing.” knittingbaglady

I agree with the following response: “While I understand the feeling of roots that this image creates, I am not sure it represents knitterliness to me. It would depend on how you did that work, wouldn’t it? RobA

My gut feeling is also that a lack of ego or fanfare is more indicative of the status of women, and women’s craft, than a knitterly quality to aspire to. A lot of my work is about trying to get a little more fanfare around the knitting of others.

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So, what do you think? Do you recognise my definitions of knitterly-ness? Disagree? Have any more to contribute? Who or what do you consider to be knitterly, and why?

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Knit intervention samples

    

    

For my PhD project, I’m looking at ways to intervene in an existing piece of knitwear. I’ve constructed a scarily complex flow chart of possible ‘treatments’, and I’m planning to knit samples to show the possibilities. I’m starting with plain ecru machine-knitted panels, and using bright red yarn to show what has been changed. Later on I’m planning to do some treatments to garments, to show them in context.

As I started to knit the samples, I realised that I would need to photograph them at each stage in order to show how they were done – otherwise I would have a pile of finished samples and just a pile of scrappy notes. My aim is that the techniques could be used by others, so the ‘how to’ information is really important.

I’ve started my sampling with treatments that open the fabric along a row, and extend, replace or shorten the knitting. I thought I’d share one of them here for feedback: ‘replace section’. I’d love to know what you think – do you get a sense of how this has been done? What additional information would you need to recreate it yourself?

    

End of the Road 2011

The knitting team and I had a great weekend at End of the Road festival at the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset. We finished our festival knitting tour with a bang, with loads of people learning to knit and crochet and plenty more (who were already adept with pins or a hook) taking part in our ribbon knitting project (find out more about the project in my previous festival posts).

The festival itself was fab, with great music and a really friendly crowd. Plus the rain held off until Sunday night which gets a big thumbs up from me. A big thank you to Lily and Sarah who were wonderful teachers as always!

Just like the other festivals we visited, we found lots of men keen to learn both crochet and knitting.

And once again our visitors produced an amazing array of ribbons, and amused us with their messages.

If you’re wondering what will happen to all these ribbons, keep watching this space…

Keep & Share Knitting Workshops

I recently sorted out the dates for my next round of knitting workshops, from October 2011 to May 2012. I’ve listed them below, or you’ll find full details on my Creative Breaks page here. I run a range of workshops, for both complete beginners and more experienced knitters, in hand knitting, machine knitting and there are also more unconventional workshops, like Calculate Your Own Patterns (ideal for those who want to knit ‘off-piste’!) and Stitch-Hacking.

The workshops are always great fun with a nice relaxed atmosphere and a friendly bunch of people. The maximum group size for any workshop is 8 participants (with myself and my assistant teaching), though often the group is smaller, with just me teaching. All equipment and materials are provided (we use chunky Knitmaster 155 machines for the machine knitting workshops, which work in a similar way to all Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Brother single bed machines) – or you’re welcome to bring your own. At the workshops I also provide advice on buying knitting machines and sourcing yarn – essential at the moment while machine knitting is an underground activity!

All the courses take place at Keep & Share HQ, my studio at Lugwardine Court, Hereford, HR1 4AE. I’ve got a list of lovely local B&Bs – so if you’re thinking Hereford is a bit far, why not treat it as a weekend break? There’s plenty to do for partners/family etc if you want to bring them along.

All Saturday sessions run from 10am to 4.30pm, Sunday sessions from 10am to 1pm, followed by a pub lunch. Workshop fees (listed below) include all materials, equipment, lunches and refreshments. A 50% deposit is due on booking, with the balance paid 2 weeks before the course.

KNIT YOUR OWN GLADYS CARDI 2 days £170 

5-6 November 2011 | 14-15 April 2012

Join us to knit our award-winning style, the Gladys Cardi, in a single weekend. We’ll guide you through the making process, including basic machine knitting, using a punchcard and seamless joining techniques. We’ll show you how to hand finish the piece, and before you know it, your very own cardi will be ready to wear. Suitable for both absolute beginners and those with more experience. More info and booking for this course here

HAND KNITTING & CROCHET WORKSHOP 1 day £60

15 October 2011 | 17 March 2012

Our hand knitting and crochet workshop welcomes knitters of all abilities to pick up new skills in relaxed and supportive surroundings. Amy will work with you on whatever techniques you are interested in – from knit and crochet for absolute beginners to lace and cables, multicolour knitting and garment finishing. She can also help you trouble-shoot individual knitting problems! More info and booking for this course here

CALCULATE YOUR OWN PATTERNS 2 days £150

28-29 January 2012 | 12-13 May 2012

At this workshop, designer Amy – who has produced scores of original patterns – will introduce you to her pattern design techniques. She will cover the selection of stitches and structures, taking accurate stitch counts and generating shapes for garments as well as calculating rectangles, angles and curves. You will gain the confidence to start designing your own pieces, freeing you to work more creatively. Suitable for both hand and machine knitters. More info and booking for this course here

MACHINE KNITTING FOR BEGINNERS 2 days £150

1-2 October 2011 | 18-19 February 2012

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or looking to refresh your skills, this course will give you a good grounding in the basics of machine knitting. Amy will teach you how to cast on, cast off, increase and decrease, and create textures, patterns and edgings using simple manual techniques. You will be confident in the basics and have a range of samples to take away. More info and booking for this course here

ADVANCED MACHINE KNITTING: SEAMLESS 2 days £150

1-2 October 2011

One of the key properties of the knitted structure is the ability to create seamless three-dimensional shapes. Working on the knitting machine, pieces can be joined seamlessly during the knitting process. We’ll introduce you to these principles – signature techniques of Keep & Share – and guide you in producing sculptural and seamless samples with many potential applications. More info and booking for this course here

ADVANCED MACHINE KNITTING: PUNCHCARDS 2 days £150

18-19 February 2012

Build on your basic machine knitting skills to get to grips with the punchcard function of machine knitting, allowing you to create a wealth of different structured fabrics including tuck, slip and fairisle. Amy has loads of tricks up her sleeve for creating both basic and more advanced fabrics using this versatile method of programming – you’ll leave the workshop full of ideas! More info and booking for this course here

STITCH HACKING 1 day £60

17 March 2012

Stitch hacking – a new textile technique recently developed by Amy – involves the laddering and reconfiguration of stitches within existing knitted fabrics. This versatile technique allows you to retrospectively create integral knit/purl designs on plain stocking stitch fabric, and many other unconventional effects. Learn the skill, and you’ll never look at a plain jumper in the same way again! More info and booking for this course here